Parenthood and Lent

Sara Anderson is an Assistant to the bishop for the New England Synod of the ELCA.  She is a graduate of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.  She is also the proud mother of two wonderful children and a great friend from Camp Calumet.
The season of Lent usually calls to mind a time of discipline, of sacrifice, of giving up. I have vivid memories of sitting around the kitchen table as a child with my family during Lent. My mother would insist that each family member determine one thing that they would give up for 40 days. We often choose desserts. I suspect that had more to do with the fact that my mother thought she needed to be on a diet and she provided the desserts than any overt spiritual discipline.

In the years since I’ve grown older, left my parents house, purchased my own, attended seminary, and developed my own Lenten disciplines, my focus has changed. I think less about what I’ll be giving up for 40 days and more about how to use those forty days in a way that I can be more present with God and recognize God’s presence with me.

This still often includes diciplines of fasting or giving up something I feel seperates me from a deeper relationship with God. I’m fortunate this year to share my second Lenten season with my son. Last year, I was simply trying to survive motherhood and full time ministry with a two month old as Lent began.

This year I hope to think about the spiritual discipline of presence. My son has so much to show me, teach me, and share with me. He sees this world and God’s creation with wonder, with joy, with a sense of delighted discovery. I want to delight in and be present with him in such a way that I’m not merely thinking about ensuring that his day to day needs are met and he is shaped in a well behaved young child. I want to give up being distracted by what needs to be done so that in the “doing” I can ENJOY my son.

He has already taught me in so many way, the powerful importance of intentional presence. I’ll be practicing it as a spiritual discipline with him-and I hope with each sacred faithfilled person I encounter. I suspect that in doing so, I’ll discover all new ways to delight in the discovery of God’s creation in and through God’s people.

Becoming Extrodinary

Baseball went on strike for the eighth time during the 1994-1995 season.  Close to a 1000 games were cancelled including the 1994 World Series.  That was the last time I was excited about baseball.  I don’t think I ever got over not having baseball in my life and I seemed to “move on” from it.  I still enjoy watching a game or two but it will never be the same.

I am really struggling with the possibility of not having football this fall.  When millionaires are arguing with billionaires I don’t know where to draw the line.  I do understand that these men that play ball have a short amount of time to play.  I do understand that they feel like they are getting treated fairly.  However, sometimes I think these guys are arguing just to hear themselves talk.

My question is how do I become extraodinary?  Isn’t the work that I do on a daily basis worth a million dollars a year?  How do these athletes go from being ordinary to becoming a superstar?

I remember back in high school i thought I was unstoppable.  I was confident, I worked hard and I felt like I succeeded in most everything I tried.  But I knew that I had my limits.  There were parts of my life that needed improvement.  Can anyone succeed 100% of the time?

I believe if we want to turn the ordinary into extrodinary we need to learn how to take command of our mind and body so that we can be at our best when we need to, and relax and recover when we need too as well.

First, goal-setting is a key. Many people don’t like to set goals because they don’t like to fail. However, you must develop mental toughness if you’re going to grow, and setting and achieving goals is one way to do it. Another way is to develop the ability to get rid of negative thoughts when they occur and substitute images of success and positive results.

Finally, sticking to a sensible program of self-care – including good nutrition, regular restful sleep, built-in periods of laughter and play, and vigorous physical exercise – will do wonders for your self-image.

It is natural to start thinking about these things as we approach a new year. So why not take that natural year-end energy, refuse to settle for “ordinary” in your life, and goal-set to go after the extraordinary. If you do, go after it with everything you have and believe in your ability to do it!

Don’t Call it a Comeback

One of the most remarkable attributes of human beings is our ability to “come back” after a loss or failure. When we experience a loss or failure in our lives we most likely don’t want to try to pull ourselves up and try again,  However, we have the ability to pick ourselves up, and find the resources to complete any task which faces us in our lives.  We can look at a defeat as a new opportunity, a chance to grow and learn, and see the world as “new again.” However, if we aren’t challenged with defeat on occasion, we can forget how to be resilient.

So how do we do it? How do we start our comebacks?

Well the first thing is to find people to lean on.  Find someone with whom you can rely on when you are down.  They can listen to you complain, offer a shoulder for you to cry upon and comfort you in your loss and pray with you and for you so you can put your hurt and pain into God’s hands.

Another thing you can do is to think about the times when you have done really well in your life.  It doesn’t matter when they happened in your life, but think about the times which you succeeded and remember how that felt.  I don’t know about you but I love winning — I love the feeling of winning, I love the confidence I recieve after I do something really, really well, and I believe that the thought and the feeling of reliving some of our successes will only help us recover from a loss or failure.

After that start to plan your comeback.  What did you learn from your loss?  What are you going to do differently?  What actually worked?

There are so many people in the world who have failed over and over again but they did not give up, they did not quit and eventually they succeeded.

During the Grammys this year, there was a medley of performances from Rihanna, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Skylar Grey. I have to admit I love the song “Love the way you lie” and despite the vulgarity of Eminem I think he is a genius at writing lyrics and performing.

From what I know about Rihanna, Eminem and Dr. Dre — you could call this performance a comback.  Rihanna has a history of being in an abusive relationship, Eminem has had a history of drug abuse and Dr. Dre has had his own inner deamons to battle.

I thought it was really neat to hear Skylar’s refrain “I need a doctor” being sung over and over again and the other three who have needed doctors to come out and sing/rap and claiming their comeback.

Have you ever experienced a comeback in your life?

How do you overcome difficulties in your life?

Beer Bread Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

Continuing our Monday series of including a grilled cheese recipe, I am going to present a Beer Bread Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich I found on Closet Cooking .  I hope you have an opportunity not only to try the Grilled Cheese Sandwich but also make the Beer Bread.  Enjoy and let me know how you enjoy the sandwich!

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 handful cheddar cheese (grated)
2 slices beer bread
1 tablespoon butter (room temperature)

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat.
2. Add the onions and saute until the onions are tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the water and cook until the onions caramelize and turn golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Make sure to stir continuously to ensure that the onions do not burn.
4. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, thyme, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
5. Assemble sandwich and grill over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted and the sandwich turns golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Solving the Problems of the world

I love getting together with friends, grabbing a few beers, sit down and talk for hours about the problems of the world. By the end of the night there are lots of comments shared about religion, politics, children, food, love and reality TV.

When these kind of nights happen, there are memories created, view points shared and of course lots of laughter.  Sometimes we agree, other times we disagree, in the end we feel like we were able to express ourselves and our view points were respected.

During Bible Study at St. Mark’s we got off topic one night (as we sometimes do) and we started talking about how we do things at the church. This was not the  “I don’t like this at church so we should change it” type of conversation. It was a real honest conversation looking at some of the things we are currently doing and we were trying to figure out how we could do them better.

I LOVE these types of conversations. It reminded me of sitting on the back porch with friends and beers talking about the world’s problems. One of the things I see in common in these two conversations is the idea of power of communities.  Sure one person can make a difference in the world.  But they do not do it alone.  They need the support of a strong community.

If you want, you can find problems in every part of our lives as well as the world around us.  I am sure if we took the time we could fill an entire notebook with the world’s problems  —  but Personally, I prefer to look for opportunities to change the way things “are” by asking the question, “What would it look like if it was fixed?” Then I ask myself, “What can I do to help?”

When I was very young, I looked for ways to make “the big-time.” How could I make the big splash and solve a problem, and I would wait to find the “big deal.” It was more ego than anything else. As I matured – I learned that I can’t wait around for the big-splash opportunity. If I do, I will accomplish nothing.

Each of us needs to look for solutions in the world around us, no matter how big or how small. Because if you walk by the small things and ignore them, then you will never be in a position to make a bigger difference.   All we need is a small opportunity to make a big difference in the world.

I remember as a kid I loved to throw rocks in a large calm lake.  I loved to watch the ripples move out from where I had dropped the pebble. One of the neatest things is realizing that eventually these ripples touch every part of the pond.

With that in mind I know that the conversations we have with one another, about the problems in the church and/or in the world are valuable.  Even if it is a quick conversation they have the potential to be that pebble, to cause a positive ripple through the church, community and through the world.

My challenge for you today is to first think about your role in all the different communities in your life.  Think about all the things that you enjoy about them and the things that you don’t enjoy about them and then take accountability for change. Be the pebble for positive change in the world. With enough pebbles, we will not only see small ripples but eventually we will see a title-wave of positive change all around us.  Waves of hope, grace and love.

Monday is Grilled Cheese

In honor of Grilled Cheese Month, Lutheran Grilled Cheese will offer a new sandwich recipe for you  to try every Monday.  Because as we know — Monday is Grilled Cheese Day.

Sautéed Jalapeño and Aged Jack Grilled Cheese

Buttery toasted bread stuffed with spicy jalapeños and nutty aged Monterey Jack cheese is sure to be a top contender for your no-time-to-cook meal of choice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated aged Monterey Jack cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 (1/2-inch-thick, 7-by-3-inch-long) slices pain au levain

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